Schedule Spring 2014

Thursday, February 6th, 13-15: Dag Haug, "Partial Dynamic Semantics", Humanisten C450

Abstract: The development of dynamic semantics was to a large extent motivated by the desire to account for anaphoric expressions (such as pronominals, but also anaphoric tense), which do not in themselves have refererence, but must be resolved in the discourse context, possibly outside the sentence in which they occur. Yet it is striking that no dynamic semantic framework can give an interpretable denotation for unresolved anaphora: an anaphoric expression only gets a denotation once its reference is resolved. Some frameworks (e.g. file change semantics, dynamic predicate logic, compositional DRT) assume that the input to semantics is equipped with indices marking coreference. Other frameworks (like DRT) make use of`preliminary' conditions like `x=?' which are not in themselves interpretable, but must be replaced by a final representation such as `x=y', before the the construction of the semantic representation proceeds. This does not sit well with the widely made assumption that anaphoric resolution is post-semantic and that the semantics of the discourse is an important input to the resolution. In this talk I present a new dynamic framework, partial CDRT, based on Reinhard Muskens' CDRT, but grafted on a partial logic. In this framework, we can give an interpretable semantics for unresolved anaphora, thereby separating the monotonic semantics from non-monotonic processes such as a anaphora resolution.

Thursday, April 3rd, 13-15: Cleo Condoravdi, "The Ingredients of Anankasticity", FLoV T116

Abstract: Anankastic conditionals are conditionals of the form in (1) that express a necessary-means-of relation between the complement of the desire predicate in the antecedent and the complement of the modal in the consequent, e.g., in (1) that taking the A-train is necessary to go to Harlem (in an optimal way). Conditionals of the same form need not have the anankastic interpretation, e.g., (2) does not express that trying not to think about chocolate is necessary for eating chocolate in an optimal way, but rather it is used to give advice to the addressee on how to avoid eating chocolate.

(1) If you want to go to Harlem, you have to/should take the A-train.

(2) If you want to eat chocolate, you should try thinking about something else.

How do the various constituent expressions combine in (1) to give rise to the perceived interpretation, linking going to Harlem, rather than the desire to do so, and taking the A-train, and how does that differ in (2)? Existing accounts largely center on changing the semantics of the modal in the consequent and have to ensure that the goal in the antecedent `wins out' against any conflicting goals (Saebo 2001, von Fintel & Iatridou 2005, Huitink 2005, von Stechow et al. 2006). They all treat either the desire predicate or the whole antecedent as effectively vacuous.

But, as we show, the same kind of compositionality problem arises more generally, with conditionals that do not convey anything about the means to an end, such as (3).

(3) If you want to use the exemption now, you will have to pay more taxes next year.

Analyses that are tailor-made for anankastics cannot generalize to account for (3).

We argue that once we adopt an adequate lexical semantics for "want", the apparently peculiar properties of anankastic conditionals can be reduced to properties that conditionals are known to have independently. Anankastic conditionals are just what they appear to be: regular, hypothetical conditionals.

Thursday, April 17th, 13-15: Reinhard Muskens, "Frame Semantics and Phrasal Semantics", FLoV T116

Abstract: Frame theory in the sense of Barsalou and others has very interesting things to say about various cognitive functions such as perception, categorisation, proprioception, and introspection. In fact, frames are supposed to implement, in Barsalou's words, 'a fully functional conceptual system'. Applying the theory to word meaning, as Loebner, Petersen & Osswald, and others have done, is highly attractive, since this results in a form of lexical semantics that is well embedded in a more general theory of cognitive functions. But while frames in general can convincingly represent content words and even certain simple sentences, it is, pace Barsalou, much less clear that they can also deal with the logical notions of negation, disjunction and (generalised) quantification. In this talk I will therefore propose a two-level system, in which a base component of meaning given by frames is extended with a conventional phrasal semantics in Montague's way. I will borrow certain insights from Frank Veltman's Data Semantics, by letting filters of frames play a role that is usually played by possible worlds or situations in a Montague-like semantics, and by letting incompatibility of frames be a central notion, more central in fact than negation, which will be explained in its terms. Since frames offer a lot more structure than is usually provided for in phrasal semantics, more operations become available to the compositional system and we shall consider some of these.

[Click on the file gothenburg.pdf below to download the slides from this talk.]

Monday, May 19th, 13-15, Kjell Johan Saebø, "Knowing how to argue from semantics: the "know how to" locution", Room T307

Abstract: The "know how to" locution has been a focus of attention in analytic philosophy, on and off, since Ryle (1946). Stanley and Williamson (2001) and Stanley (2011a and 2011b) have revived the debate by restating an 'intellectualist' theory where Knowing How is a species of Knowing That. Their argument is from semantics: since "how to..." is by appearances an embedded question, where "how" quantifies over ways, it should denote a (set of) proposition(s). As pointed out by Bach (2012), however, what ways are remains unspecified. A more thorough semantic analysis would seem likely to shed more light on the matter, strengthening or weakening Stanley's argument. But in fact, little is known about "how" questions generally, and the "how to" locution raises issues of genericity and modality of its own. Add the problem that there are often no obvious direct counterparts, or responses, to these indirect questions - if indeed they are always questions; as noted by Rumfitt (2003), (many) "how to" phrases correspond to bare infinitives in a language like French, and in a language like Russian, the verb corresponding to "know" is (often) not the verb used for Knowing That.

A closer look at the empirical landscape shows that "how to P" phrases form a mixed bag, where some seem more amenable to a compositional analysis than others. In particular, when P is what Ryle (1949) called an achievement (Kearns 2003) and a "how" question can be answered with a "by Q-ing" phrase (Sæbø 2008), an analysis in terms of (i) first- and second-order properties of actions and (ii) covert generic or in any case modal quantification, set in the question theory of Groenendijk and Stokhof (1984), can render reasonable results. The story is in progress; the next step is to try to extend this 'decompositional' approach to the cases at the focus of philosophical attention, where P is an activity like "knit" or "do the Salsa". Should that be possible and yield acceptable truth conditions, Stanley's position would be reinforced.

Bach, Kent (2012) "Review of Jason Stanley: Know How", Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
Groenendijk, Jeroen and Martin Stokhof (1984) Studies in the Semantics of Questions and the Pragmatics of Answers. University of Amsterdam dissertation.
Kearns, Kate (2003) "Durative Achievements and Individual-Level Predicates on Events", Linguistics and Philosophy 26, 595-635.
Rumfitt, Ian (2003) "Savoir faire", Journal of Philosophy 100, 158-66.
Ryle, Gilbert (1946) "Knowing How and Knowing That", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 46, 1-16.
Ryle, Gilbert (1949) The Concept of Mind. London: Hutchinson.
Sæbø, Kjell Johan (2008) "The Structure of Criterion Predicates", in Johannes Dölling, Tatjana Heyde-Zybatow and Martin Schäfer (eds.), Event Structures in Linguistic Form and Interpretation. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 127-147.
Stanley, Jason (2011a) "Knowing (How)", Noûs 45, 207-38.
Stanley, Jason (2011b) Know How. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Stanley, Jason and Williamson, Timothy (2001) "Knowing How", Journal of Philosophy 98, 411-444.

Click on the file how.pdf below to download the slides.
Elizabeth Coppock,
Apr 18, 2014, 12:34 PM
Elizabeth Coppock,
May 23, 2014, 3:21 AM